My good buddy Kyle Warren gave me the idea to do this piece so I ran with it. He wanted to have a look back at past drafts, and evaluate them now that we have seen the players progress for a couple years. I cut it off with the 2005 draft, even though that one is still to early to evaluate.
It became evident that 2004 was hands down the best draft the Rays have ever had, and it is amazing how many players from that draft are considered to be among our top prospects. Check out the article after the jump!
Best player drafted: OF Jonny Gomes
This was a pretty terrible draft by most measurements, with Jonny coming in the 18th round being the most impressive player drafted. A argument could be made for Chad Gaudin, who was drafted in the 34th round, and has seemed to found himself in Oakland. Jonny is the only player drafted that year, who is likely to be on the opening day roster. Hammel was drafted that year, but didn't sign until he was drafted again in 2002.
Biggest Bust: SP Dewon Brazelton
As much as it saddens me to say this, Dewon is very similar to Edwin Jackson. Two pitchers with plus stuff, but haven't been able to find the control to harness it. Dewon was the 3rd overall pick in the 2001 draft, and never lived up to his expectations. He posted a career ERA of 6.38, including a 1-8 record with a 7.61 ERA in his last season as a Ray.
Steal of the Draft: OF Joey Gathright
While a case could be made for Joey Gathright, Chad Gaudin was taken in the 34th round and has turned into a league-average MLB pitcher. Gaudin tore it up through the minors before becoming the youngest Ray in club history to make it to the mlb level at 20 years and 4 months. Unfortunately for the Rays, he could never really perform to his utmost ability, possibly because he was rushed to the majors.
Most interesting pick of the draft: Matt Lukevicks
Matt is the son of the Rays current Director of Minor League Operations Mitch Lukevicks. Matt was selected in the 45th round, and was just a throw in waste of pick. This is common practice in the MLB, as the teams get in the later rounds, they sometimes run out of players they would be interested in signing.
Notable Draft picks (round): Dewon Brazelton (1), Jon Switzer (2), Chris Seddon(5), Jonny Gomes (18), Jason Hammel (19), Joey Gathright (32), Chad Gaudin (34)
Best Player Drafted: SS BJ Upton
This one was basically a no-brainer. BJ was the second overall pick that year, only behind Bryan Bullington of the Pirates. Bucs fans are still scratching their heads over that one. BJ has since moved to the outfield, and had great offensive success in the 2007 season, posting a OPS of .894 at the age of 22.
Biggest Bust: OF Elijah Dukes
While many will question the mentioning of Elijah as a bust, since he has shown the ability to crush on the MLB-level. His off-field liabilities are what have made him a bust. The Rays new he wasn't exactly a man of character when he was drafted, and were lucky enough to get a good pitching prospect in return for him. It is a shame, because Dukes is such a amazing athlete. He could easily turn around his career with the Nationals, but he will need some serious changes in his social life for this to happen.
Steal of the Draft: None
Most Interesting Pick: Mike Pelfrey and Jacoby Ellsbury
Pelfrey was taken in the 15th round and Ellsbury in the 23rd, and neither of these players signed with the Rays. Since then, these 2 became highly touted prospects in the Mets and Red Sox organizations, respectively. Ellsbury is considered the center fielder of the future for the Red Sox, while Pelfrey is expected to play a larger role in the Mets bullpen this season.
Notable draft picks(round): B.J. Upton (1), Jason Pridie (2), Elijah Dukes (3), Wes Bankston (4), Chris Leroux (9), Jason Hammel (10), Nick DeBarr (11), Mike Pelfrey (12), Mike Prochaska (16), Jacoby Ellsbury (23), Matt Cobb (38)
Best Player Drafted: OF Delmon Young
Delmon was the 1st overall pick of the draft, and was considered by most experts as the correct choice. Delmon tore up minor league ball, and got his first full season as a Ray last year in 2007. While finishing 2nd in the AL Rookie of the Year voting, he didn't really have a great year, his numbers were basically a results of playing in all 162 games. There are many concerns regarding his high strikeout rates, and low on-base percentage. He is still regarded as a extremely-promising player, who has an upside of being a Vlad Guerrero type of player. No a member of the Twins after the trade that brought us Garza, Bartlett, and Morlan. He has by far been the most valuable player drafted by the Rays in 2003.
Biggest Bust: 3B Travis Schlichting
Travis was selected in the 4th round by the Rays, and never posted a OPS higher than .682 as a member of the Rays system. In his 3 years as a Ray he hit a total of 5 homers, from a typical power position. He was eventually traded to the Angels for catcher Josh Paul.
Steal of the Draft: C John Jaso
Jaso was taken in the 12th round, but is considered to be one of the better catching prospects in all of baseball. Last season he put up a OPS of 836 at Double-A Montgomery at the age of 23. He is expected to start this season at Durham, and may be knocking on the door for a September callup. He has made vast improvements in his plate approach as he has risen his OBP from .339 his rookie year in Hudson Valley to .408 last year in Montgomery.
Most Interesting Pick: P Andrew Miller
The Rays took Andrew with the 3rd pick in the 2003 draft, and he did not sign. 3 years later in 2006, he was taken with the 6th pick overall by the Detroit Tigers. He is considered to be one of the top young pitchers in baseball, and will be one to follow for years to come. Another interesting pick was William "Billy" Buckner. Not only does he have a infamous baseball name, but he is now considered one of the top prospects in the Royals system.
Notable Draft Picks (round): Delmon Young (1), James Houser (2), Andrew Miller (3), Travis Schlichting (4), William Buckner (9), John Jason (12), Chad Orvella (13)
Best Player Drafted: SP Wade Davis
RJ suggested this one should just be TBD, because there are so many great prospects from this draft. I went with Davis, since he was rated highest on the DRaysBay prospect list, but it could be anyone from Davis, McGee, Niemann, Brignac, or Sonnanstine. This shows you how incredible this draft was for the team, and any success we have in the future should be much accredited to this draft.
Biggest Bust: C Matthew Spring
Matthew was a 4th round selection in the 04 draft, and has never really panned out as a prospect. In 4 years of minor league ball he has a career line of .200/.269/.348, but the team has stuck with as he got some exposure in Double-A Montgomery last season.
Steal of the Draft: SP Andy Sonnanstine
Sonny was drafted in the 13th round, and not too much was expected from the hurler from Kent State. All he managed to do in the minor league level was win, posting a career minor league line of 40-18 with a 2.58 ERA. He went through some growing pains last year at the MLB level, but is expected to be a contributing member of the rotation this year.
Most Interesting Pick: Donald Fines
The main reason we chose Donald as most interesting, was the fact that he has the coolest name. He is known to Rays fans as Woods Fines, and he pitched last year for Single-A Columbus with a 7-7 record and a 4.41 ERA.
Notable Draft Picks (rounds): Jeff Niemann (1), Reid Brignac (2), Wade Davis (3), Jacob Mcgee (5), Ryan Royster (6), Fernando Perez (7), Andy Sonnanstine (13), Woods Fines (14), Chris Nowak (19)
Please take a minute to look back in amazement at the 2004 draft.
Best Player Drafted: P Jeremy Hellickson
This was pretty close between Jeremy and Mason, but I give Hellickson the nod due to his upside. At only the age of 19, he pitched to a 2.43 ERA at Single-A Hudson Valley two years ago, and followed it up with another sub-3 ERA at Columbus last season. He has tremendous upside, and is expected to be a high-prospect with the Rays for at least the next couple of years.
Biggest Bust: P Wade Townsend
Wade was the Rays first round selection in the 2005 draft, and has had all sorts of injury problems. This has kept him from being able to get into a groove. Last season he pitched 102 innings with a ERA of 5.08 at Single-A Columbus. It is tought to name a bust from such a recent draft, but being this poor as a first round pick has gained that status for Wade.
Biggest Steal of the Draft: P Micheal Wlodarczyk
Mike was a 7th round selection for the Rays, which is kind of high for a steal, but there have not really been in lower round successes as of yet. It is still early for this draft. Mike has posted sub-4 ERA's at every level in the minors, including a 9-6 3.85 performance last season at Single-A Vero Beach. Im looking forward to seeing Mike pitch at some higher levels, preferably Double-A to start the season.
Most Interesting Pick: First 30 picks as a whole
In the 2005 draft, the Rays selected pitchers with 22 of their first 30 picks. Not suprisingly, these selections were after the Rays staff posted a 5.39 team ERA.
Notable Draft Picks (round): Wade Townsend (1), Chris Mason (2), Jeremey Hellickson (4), Michael McCormick (5), Greg Reinhard (6), Mike Wlodarczyk (7), Derek Feldcamp (9), John Matulia (10), Matt Falk (28), Garret Groce (41)